Mr Right

I got invited to a wedding today. This is exciting. I love weddings. I haven’t been to one since my own and that’s already 3½ years ago. Having written about family yesterday, it got me thinking about relationships. So I invited myself to a trip down memory lane.

I started dating late, or whatever it was called in High School. My first serious crush was on a guy who was in a perpetual on again/off again relationship. I pined after him for months; then resorted to dating his twin brother. Kind of as a consolation prize, I guess. And they weren’t even identical. Talk about literally settling for second best. My next boyfriend broke up with me because he wanted to spend more time with his dog. This is fact, not fiction.

Over the years, I have been with a guy who turned out to be gay. I’ve been asked to shave my pubic hair on a second date. I got dumped by my fiancé of two years, conveniently only just after having moved to a different country to be with him. Stalked by an ex with emails detailing his sex life with previous partners. Broken up with on a long-distance phone call.

My short foray into internet dating bombed when I failed to fully appreciate one guy’s need to be in touch with his inner child; or another’s phone reading of poetry (Rilke ‘Der Panther’). Maybe I just wasn’t New Age enough. Another cancelled our first date on the day because he got back together with his ex-wife the night before.

I’m trying to think what traumatizing things I may have done to any of my exes or interested parties. Aside from the fact that I once dropped off one guy at the airport after a weekend visit only to turn around and go to dinner with another, I’m not coming up with much. Maybe that’s selective memory.

Anyway, this is all for real, I promise. I couldn’t make it up if I tried. Of course most of it wasn’t particularly amusing at the time. But time is a great healer. Brings out the funny side of things.

If you let it. If you let go.

Maybe not straight away, but eventually. I promise. And I’m not making that up either.

Thicker Than Blood

 

The other day, I hinted at how good friends make everything better. My friends are, and always have been, a very important part of my life.

So I thought I would share an article I entered in a writing competition for Elle Magazine in the UK last year. I had heaps of fun writing it and felt full up with gratitude in the process. It’s slightly longer than my usual posts but I’ve been waiting for the right time to share it. Sitting on the sofa with an ice pack on my ankle seems just about as good a time as any so read on…

* * * * *

There’s a saying that blood runs thicker than water. I’m not so sure. Not in my case, anyway. I seem to have spent a good part of my adult life running away from my family roots rather than embracing them. They say you cannot choose your family (although some spiritualists might beg to differ) but you can choose your friends and I guess for me that has mostly been a true reflection of my experience.

I was twenty when I left Germany for good. When I say leaving, I don’t just mean I moved out and started university or a job, in which case twenty might seem a little old. Instead, I made a complete break by leaving the European continent straight from my childhood bedroom. Growing up in a wealthy middle class family, on the surface it seemed I had everything I could have wished for. Everything except closeness. In our family, distance and reserve were nearer to the scale of daily emotions than the love and affection I longed to experience.   

I married young, even though I never thought I would. My husband’s American family showed me unconditional love and acceptance before we had even met. Initially I felt suspicious and did not know how to handle such affection. I suppose I found it hard to believe they were sincere; yet even after our eventual divorce, I am still fortunate to be considered their daughter-in-love and am very close to my ex-sister-in-law and her daughter, my favourite niece.

I’ll never regret moving to the States for love because I found love in a great many other ways. Living in Nashville, I met two of my closest friends in a string of serendipitous events. Jason and I worked in the same hotel and after a morning of combing the countryside for yard sales and vintage finds, we dropped in on his friend Sue (aka Suza Belle) in the middle of nowhere in rural Tennessee. We walked into her mansion filled with both priceless antiques and roadside junk and I instantly felt at home. It was Suza Belle who taught me that we make our own family through the friends we chose – a motto I have lived by ever since.

As I moved my peripatetic self from Nashville to Atlanta, and eventually to London and Brussels, I continued finding my chosen family. Moving from city to city and across continents quickly teaches you to separate your acquaintances from your friends. True friends are the ones with whom you can pick up your connection where you last left off, even though you may not have been in close contact for months or years. They are the ones who get who you are, and accept you with all your flaws and quirky character traits. The ones you can call on when the proverbial shit hits the fan, and the ones you share and celebrate good times with: big occasions like significant birthdays, weddings and joint travels; and small ones like a fabulous dinner or simply an afternoon catching up. They are the ones who travel across borders for a hug and a laugh, let you crash their family Christmases and entertain your 6-week-old daughter while you indulge in your first post-baby pampering session. The ones whom you trust to navigate you down single-lane tracks in a hire car in rural Greece, and the ones who you forgive for occasionally falling asleep during said navigating duties due to the lingering influence of liquid fun from the night before (this being before the advent of satellite navigation, of course). Great friends are also the ones who don’t hesitate to pick up the phone when they need a bit of cheering up themselves. It’s all about giving as well as taking, and I trust that I contribute as much to my chosen family as I receive.

Of course friendships, like all relationships, are not without friction. Some friendships require a lot of effort and not all are destined to last happily ever after. It took me until I was almost forty to learn the latter. I decided to let a very close friendship of almost ten years go and it was hard and awkward, not unlike breaking off an intimate relationship. Naturally, I have committed a few friendship faux pas myself, such as failing to reply for weeks and months to concerned calls and text messages from my best childhood friend when my life was seemingly consumed by international business travel, or letting something slip that I had been told in confidence. Thankfully in both cases, the friendship was strong enough to weather the storm.

 

For all those who might want to judge me for valuing my friends as family, I should probably add that due to my parents’ and most grandparents’ untimely passing, my blood family now is really only a nucleus of one, my younger brother. And now that I have a family of my own, I hope to show my daughter the values of both kinds of families. Because beyond family ties, I guess it’s all about love… and choosing the ones you want to share and celebrate that love with.

* * * * *

Time Out

 

My fabulous self is grounded today. Bad ankle. Not sure how and why. GP (read: doctor) doesn’t know either. But as long as I can put at least 10% of my body weight on it, it’s apparently nothing to worry about. Just take painkillers.

This is bad news for my peripatetic self. I like to be mobile. Out and about. I guess the universe is telling me to take a break.

Which leads me to something I was pondering last week. I was feeling a bit off as I found myself on the losing end of nap negotiations with Lilly. Rob came to the rescue with some slick sling action, leaving me faced with the choice of either taking time out or doing some ‘stuff’.

The whole thing got me thinking about how we can use both action and inaction to either move forward or stay stuck. You can take a rest to recharge, or to just plain hide your face under the cover. You can take action to move forward to what you are here for on this planet; or you can do inconsequential things that distract you from the task at hand. So both action and inaction can be a way of either progressing or procrastinating.

In the end, I did a quick meditation and some journaling (recharging with purpose), followed by some ‘stuff’ around the house to clear space for writing and ‘me’ time that evening. And felt better for it all than simply having surrendered to the sofa, tempting as that option may have sounded. It all reminded me of the saying that ‘imperfect action is better than perfect inaction’, a comment which appropriately enough was also posted on my blog last night.

Today I won the naptime battle. I had to concede to cuddling up on the couch. But while the girl is snoozing, I get to type out a blog post on my phone. You gotta love technology!

As for the rest of the day, I won’t be moving far beyond the four corners of the play mat. Just like Lilly. Maybe my universe decided to shrink down to the size of hers to get us to spend some quality home time today. And as always, it’s all good.

 

PS: And before anyone asks, no – this is not a hooker heel related injury!

Friends and Foes

 

I had a night out last night. Both dinner and a show (planned) and a break from blogging (unplanned). Basically I ended up sleeping on the job. Literally. And I got caught. Wicked. Because that means people are actually reading my stuff!

I saw a bad panto that was made better for being followed by dinner with friends. I had a glass of wine. It was lovely. It hurt my head. Lesson: Don’t kid yourself into thinking that Pinot Grigio will further your creativity when you’ve been largely abstinent for the better part of 18 months. It ain’t gonna happen. But it tasted good!

My consequently slow morning was made significantly better by a hot sugary concoction from a certain favourite coffee shop (not getting paid for product placement… yet). Followed by a morning out with some lovely mummies and babes.

So, beverages and friends basically made both my evening and my day. Greater credit given to the friends, of course. After all, even the best cocktail can’t make you like your enemies. Not that I have many of those, but metaphorically speaking. Then again, I’d be lying if I said the gremlins hadn’t raised their little heads again. They’re not my enemies but they sure aren’t my BFF’s either.

‘You missed a post last night’, they’re saying. ‘So now you’re out of your creative flow. You’ve failed, haven’t you?’ Pesky little buggers. I know none of this is true but man, they make it sound so convincing. Great at cranking up the guilt. It’s tempting to listen; even if you know it’s all a load of poppycock. Codswallop even. Someone said the other day that it’s all about progress, not perfection. I like that. That someone wasn’t a gremlin, of course.

So gremlins, go on – take a night off. Really, you deserve it. Have a glass of wine. And go bother somebody else in the morning. I’ll be busy being fabulous.

I got the blues

 

This one’s definitely for the girls.

I’ve been thinking about jeans lately. A lot. Mainly because I had a belated Christmas pressie: I’m now skinny enough to fit into my pre-pregnancy fat jeans. Result! I was so excited; I wore my newfound wardrobe item for two weeks straight without washing. No, I’m not making that up. And I’m counting the hours until they come off the washing line…

Jeans. They must be one of the most versatile garments around. Dress them up with a tailored jacket and heels. Add rhinestones. Dress them down with a baggy sweater and flat boots. Work in the garden or play in a gallery. Make you feel sexy, or comfy, or anything in between. Wear them year-round, come rain or shine.

I didn’t even wear jeans until I was in sixth grade or so. I thought people wearing them were eternally cool. So that was pretty much everybody. My polyester trousers just couldn’t compete. I actually worried at one point that my grades might drop if I scrapped the synthetics and donned the denim. No, they didn’t and no, I am not making that up either! Let’s just say I didn’t exactly ooze confidence at age 11. Although I guess the polyester wasn’t entirely my choice. Still, I could have resisted. Maybe.  

So denim is cool and fitting into a beloved wardrobe staple without the elasticated sides is to be celebrated. And yes, we may all be eternal victims of the fashion industry but let’s face it; nice clothes make you feel good (and nice doesn’t have to be expensive, or branded). Rob often asks me if I’m going somewhere when I put on a bit of lippy. He doesn’t quite get that I might be doing it just for me, just because.

So go on, wear your good stuff on a Tuesday. Your cashmere while weaning. Your hooker heels at home.

Hmmm, must try that last one. With my pyjamas and pearls. Rob would approve.

Oh Happy Day

 

I thought I might write about Friday the 13th today. I did a quick bit of research but in the end, the topic didn’t catch my fancy. What did amuse me, however, was to discover two funky new words:

Friggatriskaidekaphobia: the fear of Friday the 13th

And codswallop, as used in the headline ‘The utter codswallop of Friday the 13th’. Apparently codswallop is a British term for complete nonsense. What a cool word. Only in the UK…

Anyway, the whole hurrah about Friday the 13th got me thinking about the concept of luck. I tend to think of luck as a good thing, but my friend Merriam-Webster pointed out that luck can be ‘a force that brings good fortune or adversity’. So I guess that’s why we differentiate between good and back luck.

Personally, I favour the attitude that you make your own luck. Today and every other day. After all, what you focus on tends to come into being, so why not focus on the good stuff? I actually have a bit of a radar that goes into alert mode when I hear people say stuff like: ‘I worry it won’t work’ or worse ‘It’ll probably be a nightmare’. I know we all get caught in that trap sometimes, but wouldn’t it be much better if we didn’t doom something before it even had a chance to happen?

A mentor of mine actually advocates enjoying things before they happen. I’m all for it. After all, rather than focussing on all that could go wrong, how much more fun would it be to divert all that energy into focussing on what could go right?

Or take the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss: “Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky!”

So, Friggatriskaidekaphobia. Try saying that 10 times fast. Then again, don’t.

Quack Quack.

Random Ideas

 

I love ideas. And I’ve always had lots of them. I’m an ideas kind of a person. I don’t always worry about how, or if, they will materialize. Often I just want to make something happen without considering the logistics of it all. Rob will attest to this. He has been left on the executing side of my ideas on numerous occasions. Like my desire to have fishbowls as centrepieces for our wedding, leading to conversations like this:

Where will the fish come from?

A shop?

And what will we do with them afterwards?

I don’t know. But I want them.

(Note: We got married in a country house hotel in France. None of our guests were local; nor had any interest in fishy favours. In the end, the fish served their wedding day duty and went back to the shop. I framed it as spending €60 to hire them for 48 hours. I’m not sure how Rob framed it, but he executed the whole thing brilliantly.)

Anyway, I digress. Ideas. Not that I always follow through on all of them. I’m not sure that you are meant to. I read the other day that some ideas are only meant to flirt with you. To get you excited and to keep you going. In the end, you may decide that they are not for you. Or that it’s not their time… yet.

I have absolutely no idea where I am going with this. But you can’t be serious all the time. And I am trusting the process. Who knows what might happen?

Maybe we should all flirt with our ideas more often. Without worrying about the how. After all, what’s wrong with a harmless little flirt?

Heart Spaces

 

My little girl is 6 months old today!

It’s been an interesting journey into motherhood. One of the things everyone was telling me before Lilly was born is that you can’t really prepare yourself for being a mum. That you cannot possibly imagine what it’s like to have a small person to look after pretty much 24/7, certainly in the beginning.

And before you have a child, you have the luxury of revelling in the illusion that you will be different. That all the things other parents tell you will happen won’t happen to you. Enjoy that to the fullest. I did. You never get it back.

Sometimes I feel like I should be all grown up and responsible now but I don’t really feel all that different. Yes, I have to take Lilly’s needs into account in just about everything I do. No, I no longer can

  • go out at a moment’s notice or pop out for an evening out without some kind of advance notice and planning
  • fill my daytime hours with lots of me time
  • sleep whenever, and how long, I may want to
  • … and a host of other things I may have largely taken for granted before Lilly came along.

Not for now, anyway. So it sounds like there’s a whole lotta giving and not a lot of getting. Or that’s what it always sounded like to me when I listened to other mums before becoming one myself. And it’s kinda true. But that’s not the whole story.

Because what you do get in abundance is unadulterated love. The love that you feel and give to your child and the love you get back in return. The utter delight of having your baby smile at you and put his or her arms around your neck. The closeness when they snuggle in tight. Or fall asleep in your arms. The joy of watching them discover new things for the first time, when they feel ever so pleased with themselves and the world. And the simple fun of just being with this little person who has become such a big part of your life.

Everyone told me how much space a child takes up. In your house, in your relationship, in your life. I think people should talk more about the space a child takes up in your heart. And noone can prepare you for that either.

Serendipity

 

One of my favourite words.

Merriam-Webster calls it the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for. Wikipedia simply defines it as a “happy accident” or “pleasant surprise”, specifically, the accident of finding something good or useful without looking for it.

I had a lot of serendipitous moments yesterday. Such as Lilly falling asleep just as my hairdresser was ready to attend to my tresses for an overdue cut. Or getting a MoonWalk donation from said hairdresser, the eternally cool Karen, without having even asked for it. <I did ask for advice on brightly coloured hair dyes though>

And suddenly taken with the idea of sleep, Lilly nodded off again on the train home, which had me stopping in the platform waiting area to avoid waking her up being hauled down the treacherously steep steps at my home station. I doubt the sleep is a lasting love affair. In reality, I just think her little brain is temporarily overloaded from the recent introduction to culinary pleasures. Either that or hair salon fumes.

Anyway, said waiting area has got bookshelves in support of a lovely ‘take a book, leave a book’ concept. Perfect for a train station. And perfect for finding a book with the serendipitous title ‘Publish Now’ less than a week after having sent my book off to a publisher. I take it as a good omen.

Even yesterday’s gremlin attack had its silver lining: a new book idea popped into my head at 6 o’clock this morning. Don’t tell the gremlins though. They are sure to disapprove.

They probably don’t believe in serendipity either. But I do.

Who ya gonna call?

It is said that you are your own best teacher. It is also said that you are your own worst enemy. Diametrically opposite statements… but both of them oh so true!

One of the things I have noticed is that I seem to be learning the same lessons over and over again. It may sound like I just discovered the power of showing up or doing despite but really I kinda knew all along. I just needed a reminder.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered why there are lessons in life that come up repeatedly. There are skills like reading or riding a bike that you learn once and then are pretty much competent at for life. But not everything is quite as straightforward.

For some reason, we seem to grow up with this inner critic that just loves to raise his or her little head whenever we are stepping up. Or when we’re feeling down. And these inner critics are powerful little gremlins.

I’m feeling tired tonight and my gremlins are kicking off. Having a party and a laugh at my expense. They are like that, the pesky little critters. They always get you when you’re feeling a bit frazzled. Never when you’re feeling great. I know that. Even so, they still get me.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons I write… so that I can remember the lessons I am learning over and over again. Or maybe so that I can read my own writing as a bedtime story to the gremlins. That’ll shut them right up.

Or maybe I just need some good old-fashioned Ghostbusters to knock them back into submission. After all, I’m afraid of no ghost. But I might rethink taking a shower tonight.